In the music industry’s latest attempt to lazily claw itself out of the grave, the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) is proposing a $5.00 per month licence fee on Canadian Internet accounts that would legalize music downloads. They’re calling it the Right to Equitable Remuneration for Music File Sharing, a “reasonable and unobtrusive system of compensation” that will allow consumers to fill their bellies full of all the music they can handle from any peer-to-peer network while creating added revenue for artists, publishers, and labels alike.
While imposing a fee on everybody with an Internet connection to subsidize a service that a lot of people never used to begin with isn’t particularly new or all that shocking, this would set a completely bonkers precedent with the potential for a deluge of other Internet levies from other groups of interest (the film industry, software programmers, etc.). Besides, Canadians already pay a levy on blank media (CD-Rs, cassettes, etc.) for basically the same reason. And it still holds true that not everyone uses those blank CDs exclusively to dub copies of Dance Mix ’94 in much the same way that not everyone uses an Internet connection to stick it to the man by illegally downloading it. So why pay for permission for something we don’t necessarily want permission to do? Isn’t this just collective punishment disguised as legal downloading?
Sure certain musicians should be more fairly compensated since we’re all such wads about stealing the fruits of their heavy hearts (according to the Toronto Star, CD sales in Canada have dropped 35% since 2006 with a shared to paid Internet download ratio of 98:2). But a flat rate forcing people to buy music whether or not they’re interested isn’t the best way to adapt to a changing industry.
Really the only positive thing about this proposal is the slow about-face the industry is having toward embracing technology instead of continuing to drop millions of dollars to halt it and carry on with a totally obsolete business model. Fat-brained consumers will always find new ways to steal, and the artists they’re stealing from will further experiment with alternate revenue sources until they hit on something and leave cute things like labels and the Songwriting Association in the ball pit. Unless, of course, the other guys figure it out first.
For now there’s virtually no way SAC’s non-optional fee proposal could ever go through, but if you feel the need to rabble-rabble in person about this sad scene, a public forum is taking place today at 7 p.m. at Ryerson’s Oakham House. Bring your autograph book because it’s moderated by Eddie Schwartz (AKA the dude who wrote Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”).
Photo by s3a.